Any successful business person can tell you about the importance of “face time”—actually sitting down with clients, coworkers, maybe even competitors. But there may be even more to this whole face-to-face business than meets the eye—or exactly as much as meets the eye. Because a new study from Tufts University suggests that the success of a corporation rests squarely on the face of its CEO.
The researchers took photos of 50 CEOs from the highest and lowest ranked Fortune 1000 companies. And they showed these pictures to a group of undergrads. They asked the students to rate each face on whether its owner looked competent, dominant, likeable, mature or trustworthy. What they found is that the students’ impressions tracked with company profits. The more powerful and leaderlike the CEO appeared, the more successful the corporation—even though the CEOs are all pretty much middle-aged white guys in ties.
The study, which will appear in the February issue of Psychological Science, does not indicate whether profitable companies tend to promote people who look like leaders or whether successful CEOs grow to look the part. Either way, looks like a company’s financial about-face can actually be about face.